rescue. reunite. rehome. rethink.
volunteer comforting cat

Volunteer Manuals

The volunteer manual or handbook is critical to a successful volunteer program.

A well-designed volunteer manual includes policies and procedures to help you manage the program, and it gives volunteers a head start in learning about the organization. The manual acts as both a great training tool and handy reference for volunteers. It should include information to help volunteers feel “in the know,” enable them to assist visitors, and empower them to function independently within the guidelines of the organization.

The manual should be friendly, welcoming, and warm, while still conveying the importance of the organization’s policies. You don’t want to overburden volunteers with too many rules and policies, but creating some structure is necessary.

When designing your manual, include the following elements:

Explain the mission and goals of your organization.
Let people know what you're all about—and why they should spend their free time working for your group. Briefly discuss how the volunteer program will help you meet your mission. If you develop a separate mission statement for the volunteer program, include that as well. It should be clear to all volunteers where your organization is heading and what it is striving to accomplish.

Give a brief history of your shelter and information about your facility.
Don't be modest! Use this space to sing your praises. Let people know how long you've been operating and what you've contributed to your community. Include a list of services your organization provides, including things like animal control, lost and found services, pet loss support groups, low-cost spay/neuter programs. Also include your operating hours and important phone numbers.

Provide an organizational chart.
Give a concise, transparent explanation of who's in charge of what. This will help both volunteers and staff understand where the program fits into the broader organizational structure.

Articulate shelter policies and philosophies.
Clearly discuss how you manage important shelter tasks, including adoption procedures and holding periods. This is also the perfect place to provide a concise explanation of your philosophy on sensitive, complex issues such as euthanasia and adoptions. Be sure to include information that will help volunteers understand the “hows” and “whys” of what you do, which will help prevent misunderstandings. You should also include statistics about your organization’s adoption and euthanasia rates, when available.

Outline volunteer position descriptions, including the duties and skills required of each position, and the volunteer's rights and responsibilities.
Include a list of positions available to volunteers, and the duties, skills and training required for each one. Clearly spell out what’s expected of your volunteers as well as what they can expect in return. Use this space to discuss exactly what you need from your volunteers. This section should be clear and thorough, including information about the following areas:

  • Sign-in procedures
  • Appropriate attire
  • Areas that are off-limits to volunteers
  • How and when volunteers should interact with the public
  • Dos and don’ts when working with animals in the shelter
  • Confidentiality policies
  • Evaluation procedures
  • How grievances are handled
  • Termination policy
  • Policy on personal belongings
  • Sexual harassment policy and anti-discrimination policies
  • Where volunteers can eat or smoke on the premises
  • Parking policy
  • Safety information
  • What a volunteer should do if he or she is injured while volunteering
  • Media information
  • A FAQ (frequently asked questions) page with answers
  • Glossary of common terms volunteers might hear in the shelter

Sample Materials

Powered by Blackbaud
nonprofit software